Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Blood Orange Blossoms
Like the blood orange fruit this hat is a bold and deep colour of rusty orange with embroidered flowers and leaves of the same colour providing a background for summer flowers of cream, peach and red to bloom.

April Millinery Courses

Good Morning all,
I have just signed myself on to a millinery course, so I can experiment with new techniques and fabrics, for when I am next home in the UK and thought I would share a list of similar millinery courses being run around the globe. Who knows, you might be the next Coco Chanel.

1 Apr Fascinator from Atelier's 'Recipe Book' at Millinery Atelier, Kingly Court, London , UK
2 Apr Sinamay Headpiece at Millinery Atelier, Kingly Court, London , UK
5 Apr 1 Day Fascinator Workshop with Lenette Isko, Forest of Dean , UK
6-8 Apr 3 day millinery course, Janie Lashford's school of millinery, Cotswolds, UK
7-9 Apr Straw Blocking with Ming's House of Fashion, Washington DC, USA
8-9 Apr Straw, Felt or Buckram Blocking with Veronica Chin, Judith M Hat Studio, Indiana, USA
9-10 Apr Fabulous Fabric Hats with Christine Yarker, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
9-10 Apr Millinery Weekend at Inkberrow Design Centre, Redditch, UK
10 Apr Silk Flowers with Embellish Atelier, Whispering Brook Vineyard NSW,AUSTRALIA
11-15 Apr Felt & Straw Blocking with Ming's House of Fashion, Richmond VA, USA
13-14 Apr Regency Era Riding Hat with Lynne Cook, Canberra, AUSTRALIA
13Apr-15th June Hat making evening classes at Glasgow Metropolitan college UK
15-16 Apr Fascinators, Headbands and Frames with Laura Hubka, Judith M Hat Studio, Indiana, USA 15-22 Apr Beginning Blocking with Felt & Straw, Jeanne Bjorn, Portland OR, USA
16 Apr Fabric Hat Construction & Surface Design with Christine Yarker, Woodford NSW, AUSTRALIA 16-17 Apr Freeform Felt Hat Blocking with Jasmin Zorlu, Redwood City CA, USA
18-22 Apr Millinery Retreat with Ming's House of Fashion, Location tba, USA
19 Apr - 20 June Innovative Millinery, weekly at Leeds College of Art , UK
19-21 Apr 3 day millinery course, Janie Lashford's school of millinery, Cotswolds, UK
20 Apr - 20 June Summer Hats & Fascinators, weekly at Leeds College of Art , UK
30 Apr - 1 May Feather Sculptures & Headpieces with Jane Stoddart, Potts Point NSW, AUSTRALIA

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Peaches and Cream

The Chrysanthemum is the flower of the Japanese emperor and this classic hat adorned with a big puffy peachy pink chrysanthemum is fit for an empress.

This vintage kimono silk is covered in a large floral print ranging from black leaf work through blue maple leaves and pink, peach and red blooming flowers with salmon pink embroidery around silver lined white leaves and finished off with a big peachy pink chrysanthemum.

Spring has Sprung (or at least it's thinking about it)

March 21st was officially the first day of spring (I know I am late but it was still snowing here in Niigata thus I refuse to believe it is spring) so I have put together a selection of very funky Spring themed hats hoping that the flowers on my head will encourage the flowers in my garden to grow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Shine like a sunbeam in this gorgeous lemon yellow kimono silk cocktail hat.

Made form heavily embroidered kimono silk and adorned with yellow leather flowers blooming around fiery orange quartz stones.

Millinery Competition

Alas I did not win the bridal millinery competition on
The winner was the lovely Boring Sidney (who is neither boring nor called Sidney) with this very cute wee gold top hat.

As well as having gorgeous hats this Lady has amazing pictures of said hats.

Must find someone in Niigata with wolfhounds.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

Today, every news, fashion, celebrity magazine around the world is filling its pages with memories of Elizabeth Taylor. They talk about her films, Oscars, husbands, social activism and with a career that spanned 60 years and seven men there is a lot to write about. But to me that is not Elizabeth Taylor. The American film institute named Taylor seventh on its female legends list and to me that is Elizabeth Taylor. A legend. A mythical being that represents female strength and beauty. Just as the name Medusa summons images of the hag so terrifying it turns you to stone the name Elizabeth Taylor does the opposite, bringing to mind all that is beautiful, old skool Hollywood glamour and sophistication.
Dame Taylor was also a beacon of female wit some of my favorite comments being:

"If someone is dumb enough to give me a million dollars to make a picture, i'm certainly not dumb enough to turn it down."

"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses."

"When the sun comes up I have morals again."

and when asked about her plethora of marriages her reply:
"What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?"

On top of this she was a fashion icon and man could she wear a hat, once famously ordering 28 hats from Philip Treacy after seeing his models in a hotel lounge in London. So here I pay homage to a legend of film, fashion and millinery.
See you on the other side Ms Taylor.

Technically not a hat but she's still rocking it

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kimono Hunting

So in my Casual meet Cocktail post I was bitching about the lack of millinery supplies available in Japan but I will be the first to admit that the fabrics in Japan are better than any I have ever seen.
In fact they have a whole area of Tokyo know as Fabric town with masses of fabric filling shops and spilling out onto the street. The shop I frequent has 7 floors of shelf upon shelf of different fabrics and while I would quite happily use them all I have forced myself to stay true to my eco self and use only organic, eco friendly or recycled goods. Thus my visits to Fabric Town are more often than not window shopping exercises and I am forced to roam the little alleyways of middle of nowhere towns where snippets of pre-war Japan can still be found and where second hand kimono shops lurk like Aladdin's caves waiting to be discovered. Except in Shibata that is. Here in the very first place I lived in Japan, standing proud right in the center of the main street slowly engulfing the pavement and shops to either side is...actually I have no idea what the name is as the sign is hidden under a mass of silk, baskets, bags ...
I had visited this shop many, many times (most of my sisters christmas prezzies from Japan originated here)before I even realised there was an upstairs full of antique kimono. The little lady who runs the shop seems to have a serious collecting problem and the shop resembles what once was her living room and has turned into a shop out of necessity to get rid of things. It is here I spend hours on my knees on the cold tatami floor racking through pile after pile of kimono looking for just the right fabric to turn into a hat.
I thought you might like to have a wee look around too...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

"The butterfly counts not months but moments"
Rabindranath Tagore

Perfect for all you spring and summer brides this white birdcage veils looks as though two white butterflies have landed on your veil to add a little enchantment to your special moment.

Milliners of Etsy Project Runway

As mentioned yesterday the Milliners of Etsy have organised a competition among their members. Participating milliners had to search through the masses of gorgeous wedding things on etsy and find a dress or other textile piece that inspires and create a head ornament to match. My entry is Morag's headdress posted below and inspiration came from Katrinshine who makes lots of lovely leather accessories, corsets and medieval themed dresses.

The deadline for entries was yesterday and thanks to the fast workings of our team captain you can now see all the entries and their inspiration on one of two treasuries:

Fingers crossed and I will let you all know if I win!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

The Gael collection - Morag's Headdress

My eldest sister Morag got married a few years ago and while trying to plan her Scottish Celtic wedding we were constantly amazed and disheartened by the lack of simple, scottish products available in the wedding market. She didn't want crystals and diamonds, she didn't want a tiara or a veil and so we were at a loss. It may be too late for my sister but I made this with her understated modesty and strong but simple style in my thoughts.

This medieval style headdress is the first in my Gael collection. The wire is hand knotted by myself then a mustard gold obi himo (the cord wrapped around the center of the obi on a kimono) is sewn on to the wire and the wire covered in golden embroidery thread. The headpiece wraps around the back of your head and is secured at both sides with small brassy hair combs.

I have also just entered this into a competition being run by the milliners of etsy. Will let you know how I do!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Join the dots

From the Clockwork Orange to Nicole Richie via Fergie

While searching for pictures for this join the dots I discovered that bowler hats are much more popular than I had originally thought...who knew?

Grace Jones, Kirsten Dunst, Mischa Barton, Keira Knightley, Ashlee Simpson, Russell Brand, Prince Charles, Thom Yorke.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Casual meet Cocktail

Being a milliner in Japan is a world of contradictions. For me, being Scottish, hats are for weddings, the races and special occasions. Wearing anything other than a baseball cap, beanie or at a push a beret is still seen as being brave and unique. Here in Japan on the other hand, hats are worn everywhere, by everyone, everyday. However the thought of wearing a hat to a wedding or event is still a complete taboo. The contradiction for me lies in the fact that I am surrounded by hats everyday yet despite my best efforts and numerous drives to Tokyo I cannot source hat making supplies such as buckram, sinamey and crin.

The hat wearing habits of the Japanese however can only be seen as a good thing and I have made it my mission to mix up the cultures by starting a regular post like the one below featuring pictures of Japanese hats I find out and about in Niigata and some pics of my favorite fancy hats from home.

So here is the first. From Japan, a couple of unsuspecting girls I found outside my local supermarket a few nights ago on my way to buy milk, rocking trilby's and my lovely Mother and sisters at a family wedding waving the flag for awesome fancy hats!

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Hey guys, sorry for the lack of activity recently but things have been a bit bumpy at this side of the world. I have however been busy and have spent the week making custom orders for some lovely summer brides to be. This little pillbox hattie follows that trend and is perfect for a chic 1920's bride with heavy white and gold embroidery and a wave of textures.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Hey guys, sorry for my silence but it has been a bit of crazy weekend here in Japan. I will start posting again later this week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Men Rocking Hats

So the latest round of fashion weeks have left me with a big grin on my face due to the amount of hats on show, and most of them on men. Designers like the Caten twins for Dsquared, Dai Fujiwara for Issey Miyake and Massimiliano Giornetti for Ferragamo all sent their boys down the catwalk with their heads adorned in a range of stetson types, toppers and squishy looking things as well as some 1920 classics found only in the back of cigar bars on the guy in the full length smoking jacket. According to a recent New York Times article 40% of hats sold Stateside are mens and so I have put together a wee collection of hat wearing boys and hope this trend will continue.

Ben Johnston of Biffy Clyro, Justin Timberlake, Samuel L. Jackson, Steven Tyler, Popey, Hugh Jackman, Colin Farrell, Brad Pitt.

My Favorite hat wearer however has got to be this guy!

In my search for men in hats I was a little suprised to find that lots of guys I assumed would be hat fans never seemed to have their heads covered and so in an attempt to convince them how much cooler they would be in a hat I did a little Pheigiimposing...

Dave I understand that your hair is soft and shinny and blows in the wind like a Timotei ad when you walk but really a hat would draw more attention to your flowing locks not distract from them!

You too Joseph Gordon Levitt, you may have freaked us all out by growing up when we weren't watching thus changing from that guy in third rock from the sun into that pretty hot guy in Inception but the transformation would be so much more complete if followed through on the waistcoats and pocket watches with a wee hat every now and again.

Come on boys hat up!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

The Chrysanthemum is the flower of the Japanese emperor and this classic hat covered in white, red and yellow chrysanthemums is fit for an empress.

This vintage kimono silk is so heavy it refused to be stretched thus I have pleated the fabric to mold perfectly to the shape of the hat and finished it off with a big bow of the same fabric

International Womens day

Today is the 100th anniversary of International womens day!
Originally called International working womens day the day ensures that for at least one day a year political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.

At University I was very interested in both environmental and feminist issues and I believed that if only I could tell people what was really happening things would change. By the end of my 4 year degree I was aware of exactly how many people there were in the world shouting about the very same issues at the top of their lungs and still no one paid any attention.

My Grandfather used to always say "Don't criticise something unless you have a solution of your own" and after stumbling upon an article about Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop I made the decision to stop telling other companies what they are doing wrong, stop shouting about child labor and slave wages, stop complaining about pesticides and toxins. If you really want to change things then own the companies, make the policies, take the responsibility. So on this International Womens Day I want to tell you a little about my role model, Anita Roddick.

British born to Italian parents in 1942 Anita started the body shop to try and support her two children by selling all-natural beauty products using ingredients that she’d seen local women use on her many travels. Starting up wasn't easy as, in her words:
“No bank wanted to go into a business with a hippie chick dressed in a Bob Dylan T-shirt who made her money selling cocoa butter cream,”
but a loan from a friend got her on her way and By 2004, the Body Shop had 1980 stores, serving over 77 million customers throughout the world. The Body Shop was voted the second most trusted brand in the UK, and 28th top brand in the world. Much of this came from the body shops focus on ethical business as this story told by Anita Roddick herself shows:

"For me, campaigning and good business is also about putting forward solutions, not just opposing destructive practices or human rights abuses. One key area where my business and personal interests naturally combine is through The Body Shop community trade initiatives. It all started in 1989 when I attended the gathering at Altamira of Amazonian Indian tribes protesting against a hydro-electric project which would have flooded thousands of acres of rainforest, submerging native lands. There had to be something practical I could do to help these people preserve their environment and culture. Nuts? Specifically brazil nuts, which the Indians gathered sustainably from the forest and which when crushed produce a brilliant oil for moisturising and conditioning. This first trading relationship with forest people, unused to any real commercial activity, was fraught with pitfalls and dangers. But 13 years on we’re still trading with them and have even set up a Green Pharmacy project producing remedies based on traditional knowledge of forest plants – reducing dependency on inappropriate and expensive modern pharmaceuticals. Every year I travel to a number of our projects. In November 1999 I visited our long-term partners Teddy Exports in southern India and GPI in Nepal and our new partners, the Chepang indigenous people who grow herbs for our Ayurvedic range. In January 2001 I visited the 130 sesame seed oil farmers in Nicaragua who receive a fair and stable price for their seed. As a result the farmers have built up a sustainable business that as well as offering marketing clout, runs a subsidised store, a credit union, and employs a Cuban agronomist specialising in organic methods. The deal with The Body Shop isn't going to make the farmers financially rich, but it does enable them to maintain their chosen way of life and through co-operation achieve autonomy. I’m immensely proud of our efforts to make fair or community trade relationships more mainstream. The Body Shop now has 29 such projects in 23 countries and we aim to develop more."

The Body shop also focused on presenting a more realistic view of women and in 1997 launched the brands advertising campaign using Ruby a naked, red haired, size 16 doll.

The lists of awards below shows just how much influence one ethically minded business owner can have and serves as daily inspiration for me to keep going with my small business that hopefully will one day blossom.

  • 1984 - Veuve Clicquot Businesses Woman of the Year
  • 1988 - Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • 1988 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sussex
  • 1991 - Center for World Development Education's World Vision Award, USA
  • 1993 - Banksia Foundation's Australia Environmental Award
  • 1993 - Mexican Environmental Achiever Award
  • 1993 - National Audubon Society Medal, USA
  • 1994 - Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics, USA
  • 1994 - University of Michigan's Annual Business Leadership Award, USA
  • 1995 - Women's Business Development Center's First Annual Woman Power Award, USA
  • 1996 - Women's Center's Leadership Award, USA
  • 1996 - The Gleitsman Foundation's Award of Achievement, USA
  • 1997 - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Honouree, Eyes on the Environment
  • 1999 - British Environment & Media Award
  • 1999 - Chief Wiper-Away of Ogoni Tears, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Nigeria
  • 2001 - International Peace Prayer Day Organisation's Woman of Peace
  • 2003 - Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)
  • 2004 - Honorary Doctorate of Public Service, The Sage Colleges
  • 2005 - Shell liveWIRE survey of inspirational role models, third place after 1) Richard Branson 2) Friends/family 3) Anita Roddick 4) James Dyson 5) Sahar Hashemi
  • 2006 - Spirit of the Rainforest Award, Rainforest Action Network
Most of all (having no official training myself) I love Anita's views on formal business education:
“This notion that to be in business you’ve got to go to a business school is crap; business schools only shape you to be a very efficient person working in a very traditional system – but the most exciting things are what’s being done untraditionally."

More women in business and politics = more diversity in our world

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Roast Pumpkin Harris Tweed with an orange, gold and black leopard print glass pendant and a big black Ostrich Quill lined with Kimono print fabric.

Join the dots

In the last couple of days a few of my hats have featured in etsy treasures with the theme join the dots. Does what is says on the tin really, you pick something you like then find something that that thing reminds you of and so on and so forth. Still confused? Check this out and it will make sense

Anyhow it always amuses me when looking at hats how the same hat can look so different depending on who is wearing it and so I decided to do a mini join the dots based on hats and what do you know it turns out the link between Christina Aguilera and Marilyn Manson is Prince William!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Aka Tombo hat of the day

Earthy hues Harris Tweed check cocktail hat finished off with a purple enameled coconut button and lined with sakura pink kimono silk.

Indecent exposure?

So today most fashionistas were talking about Lady Gaga making her modeling debut in Paris for Muglers Autumn/Winter collection. I must say that while I am generally for any hat in any situation I was decidedly underwhelmed by Miss Gagas choice of head gear. Bumpy semi circular UFO types. What struck me more however was the outfits on show or more to the point the amount of boobs on show. I personally thought the outfits were pretty funky (especially the yellow skirt thing, its like you are emerging from a flower) however it did make me question, at what point do you start to wander into the realms of indecent exposure.

If, for example, I was to wear one of Muglers creations and head out to the supermarket would I get arrested for having my boobs on show. If I was arrested would I then be able to sue Mugler for not having a “warning! May result in arrest” label?

As always when in a knowledgeless state I turned to the all knowing Wikipedia who informed me that in England and Wales

“Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public or in view of the general public by a person of a portion or portions of their body, in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior.”

Seems pretty vague, which leads me to believe that if I were to start a small hat wearing community where it was the social standard of appropriate behavior to always have said hat on your head could I then have all none hat wearers arrested?

In Scotland the law is slightly different and states:

“There must be a lewd and indecent intention, mere carelessness is not criminal”

Thus if you forget to wear your hat you are ok and I can only arrest you if you are hatless and give me the finger.

This may all seem a little farfetched but I do believe small communities as I have described already exist. Though you may not be arrested I am pretty sure that wandering into certain areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh with the peak of your hat at anything less than a 90 degree angle will result in severe punishment never mind no hat at all. I wonder if anyone has tried to sue residents of said area for not having appropriate signage warning of the dangers of ignoring the local social standard of appropriate behavior?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aka Tombo hats get a blog mention

Aka Tombo hats were featured in this Nautical collection on YAY!

Aka Tombo hat of the day

The first Aka Tombo hat of the day.
Working from home is a constant battle with procrastination and my inner sloth so to keep myself in check I have set the target of one completed hat a day and you guys get to be the teacher checking I did my homework if you will.
This is the first of such hats. A warm toasted brown tweed with an olive lace flower lined in sage green kimono silk.
Hope you like.

Hello Johnny!

Johnny Depp arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport yesterday waving the flag for hot men in hats!

Screw the crown get me a hat!

This week it seems that all millinery (and tabloid) eyes have fallen on the head of future Queenie to be, Kate Middleton whom it seems is trying to start her own wee hat revolution. She was this week sporting a Vivien Sheriff hattie made from brown velvet trimmed with pheasant feathers (my favorite) topped off with two buttons, one from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, of which Prince Charles is colonel-in-chief, and the other from the Staffordshire Regiment. Throw in a tiny wee cameo brooch and you are on to a winner. Well unless you listen to the 3am girls who said it looked like "something the corgi dragged in".

I liked it Kate. Maybe I will drop one of my hats off in the post for you. Anyone got an address or is it just Care of the Queen, Buckingham Palace. It would get there right?

This isn't the first time Kate's head has got us all turning for a sneaky second glance as she has previously been spotted wearing hats by Philip Treacy and Whiteley Fischer.

There are already rumours flying around hat land that Philip Treacy may be designing a wedding hat for the bride to be as royal watcher Katie Nicholl told The Daily Mail “Kate recently met Treacy after the Duchess of Cornwall recommended his designs for the senior members of the wedding party, including mother-of-the-bride Carole.” Indeed it was Treacy who designed the feathered wedding hat worn by Camilla Parker Bowles at her 2005 wedding to Prince Charles.

Me thinks however that this Lady has taken inspiration from a previous young princess...

I am all for it Kate and really hope you end up in a hat for your wedding. The more hats on heads the better!